Park Rapids Community Center proponents tap DLCCC for ideas

“There’s a lot you can do without necessarily having a building,” advised Peter Jacobson, chief executive director of the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center (DLCCC).

Peter Jacobson, chief executive director of the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center, cooks hot dogs at a 2022 Engage event for seniors.

Don’t focus on building a community center, but rather concentrate on its mission and goals.

That was the primary advice from Peter Jacobson, chief executive director of the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center (DLCCC).

“There’s a lot you can do without necessarily having a building,” he said.

Jacobson recommended deciding what the community wants to achieve, finding existing assets and cultivating those connections.

On Monday, May 15, he met with a small group of citizens spearheading efforts to develop a community center in Park Rapids.



Lessons from Detroit Lakes

Prior to working for DLCCC, Jacobson was a health care administrator for CHI St. Joseph’s Health (2000-06) and Essentia Health St. Mary’s Hospital in Detroit Lakes (2008-19). He joined the DLCCC in 2019.

“In college, my goal was to be a YMCA director, so I finally reached, sort of, reached my career goal,” he quipped. “It’s been fun.”

“Our mission is to provide quality opportunities for people to learn, grow and play physically, culturally and socially. I really take my hat off to the original board members that were planning and wrote a very compelling mission … As our world has become more divided politically, coming together to learn, grow and play in all those areas has become even more important.”

After many years of planning, the DLCCC opened in 2001 in an abandoned school. The facility is owned by the city of Detroit Lakes and operated by DLCCC Inc., a 501(c)3 organization.

“We have a management agreement with the city that gets renewed every five years,” Jacobson said. “It’s been a really good model in Detroit Lakes to have the public-private partnership.”

He pointed out that the city of Detroit Lakes owns the Detroit Mountain Recreational Area, Detroit Country Club, Minnesota Flyers Gymnastics & Fitness building, plus the land where the Detroit Lakes Boys and Girls Club is located.

DLCCC is governed by a seven-member board, with two appointed by the Detroit Lakes City Council.


A plethora of amenities

The facility houses the 800-seat Holmes Theatre, which brings in a variety of local, regional and national performing arts.

There is a field house (basketball, pickleball, volleyball, etc.), aquatics center, indoor playground, fitness center and walking track.

Jacobson said they raised about $1.5 million to convert the gymnasium into The Midwest Ballroom & Events Center. “It’s been really well-received.”

The DLCCC hosts a summer music series, children’s theater programming, a street and art fair. “We have a variety of artists that will use the building – woodcarvers, knitters,” he added.

DLCCC Inc. serves as the fiscal agent for the Lakes Area Community Concert Band, “which is another really nice model as well. Through our 501(c)3, there’s other groups that are trying to create quality opportunities to learn, grow, play, but they don’t necessarily have to go through and create a nonprofit.”

They are the fiscal agent for local pickleball, baseball and other associations. Jacobson said he’d like to do more with other organizations that share their mission.

“We also manage all of the youth and adult (recreational) sports,” Jacobson said.

A program called Engage is for adults over 50. It has evolved from bingo and cards to snowshoeing, biking, hiking, cooking classes and trips for several hundred older adults, he said, adding that Medicare pays for these social activities.


MAHUBE-OTWA leases day care center space to an independent child care provider, who in turn utilizes the indoor playground or interacts with Engage members.

Jacobson said they recently opened a brand-new history and children’s science museum.

DLCCC also rents space to other tenants, such as dance studios, piano teachers and occupational therapists.

The DLCCC hosts Meals on Wheels and Senior Nutrition as well.

Key statistics

DLCCC has an annual budget of $2.5 million. There are 1,250 membership contracts and approximately 3,000. Jacobson said they lost half of their members during COVID, but those are gradually returning.

The 800 active “Silver Group” members are part of the Medicare Advantage Plan. “Those folks all get a free membership because it’s paid for through their health insurance,” Jacobson explained.

DLCCC employs 110 employees, with 20 at full time.

“We’re pretty lean when it comes to how we operate. Eighty percent of revenue comes through direct services – memberships, day passes, ticket sales. About 15% comes from philanthropy,” he said.


Friends of the Theatre contribute $70,000, for example. Season sponsors generate $150,000 each year, with youth sponsors bringing in $30,000 to $40,000.

“That’s a big part of my job, working with donors and capital donations,” he said.

The city provides about 5% of funding.

Over the last 22 years, DLCCC has had an average operating margin of 1%.

One of the challenges, Jacobson said, is that the building is aging and maintenance has been deferred. The roof, windows and bricks need repair or replacement, he said.

Partnerships or big benefactors

In 2000, DLCCC cost $10 million to remodel. Today, Jacobson estimated it would be $30 million or more.

Jacobson advocated for partnerships with the city, townships, county, school districts, other nonprofits, the chamber of commerce and large employers.

The Midwest Minnesota Community Development Commission is a great resource for financing.


He suggested acquiring a planning grant, then researching community centers in towns similar in size to Park Rapids.

Jacobson said there must be clarity on the community center’s mission before tackling fundraising and attracting big donors.

The next meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 8 at Heartland Park. Donna Anderson, SNAP-Ed educator for the University of Minnesota Extension, is facilitating the discussion. Anyone interested in participating can contact her at or 218-640-0285.

Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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